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Wine production in Provence is in the process of a dramatic revolution that would not have seemed possible even thirty years ago. Attracted by the glorious climate and garrigue landscape of this extensive area and intoxicated by its vinous possibilities many wealthy wine lovers have made substantial investments in vineyard properties and wineries in Provence to become part of a dynamic culture of wine production.

grape harvest in provenceProvence, planted with vines by the Romans much of whose architecture still adorns the region, has had a history of making dull rosé wines that were very high in alcohol alongside equally dull, lifeless red wines. Today the situation is radically different. More modern rosé wine is lighter with an intense perfume and made in a very dry style which makes a superb accompaniment to the re-invented provençal cuisine with its emphasis on sea food, game, vegetables, olive oil, garlic and the herbs of the garrigue.

Provençal red wines vary greatly due to the incredible diversity of geography, geology and grape varieties planted. The Côtes de Provence AOC encompasses more than 20,000 hectares of vines spread over 3 French departments viz. the Var, Bouches du Rhône and an outpost in the Alpes Maritimes. In total 84 communes are involved in growing grapes and wine production in just this one appellation. Traditionally the Carignan grape has dominated plantings throughout the region but the modern trend, encouraged by the INAO (formerly the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), has been to replant these vines with the more rewarding Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre according to the terroirs.

The Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence appellation also makes vast quantities of wine although the rosés are generally considered to be more interesting than the reds. Between these two large appellations lies that of the Coteaux Varois with a cooler, sheltered climate and predominantly limestone soil. Harvesting can be as late as early November in some micro-climates located on north facing slopes of this appellation. The well-regarded Burgundy négociant Louis Latour has enjoyed considerable success with its plantings of Pinot Noir which serves to emphasise how much cooler the conditions can be here.

The region in general is well-suited to organic viticulture epitomised by the twenty year old appellation (granted in 1995) of Les Baux-de-Provence north east of Arles. Plenty of sun, litte rain and the strong winds of the mistral mean that any type of rot is extremely uncommon. With such a long history of wine-making several smaller areas of high quality wine production have existed in Provence for many years. Pallette, Cassis and Bellet all make wines of interest although none could be considered bargains. The last mentioned, inland from Nice close to the Italian border, has embraced some traditional Italian grape varieties including Vermentino (Rolle in French), an aromatic white grape providing acidity and minerality.

The single most rewarding and acclaimed appellation, however, is that of Bandol, a small appellation located on the mediterranean coast west of Toulon. Bandol red wines are made from the Mourvèdre grape variety, sometimes with the addition of Grenache planted on north facing slopes to delay early ripening, and Cinsault. These are big wines, full-bodied and with a distinct “goût de garrigue” herbal character. Rosé and much smaller quantities of white wines are also produced. The rosé, made from Cinsault in a dry style, sells very well to summer visitors to the area. The full-bodied Bandol white wines are made using Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc and Clairette grapes.

  1. Château de Pibarnon, Bandol, 2010

    The “Petrus of Bandol”, Château de Pibarnon is located to the north of Bandol on the Télégraphe hill. The Mourvèdre vines are protected from the fierce Mistral by the semi-circular amphitheatre of terraces. Vineyard work is carried out by hand with severe selection meaning low yields.

    Colour Rosé Wine
    Grape Variety Cinsault, Mourvedre
    Country France

    Out of stock

  2. Château de Pibarnon, Bandol, Rosé, 2011

    Château de Pibarnon, Bandol, Rosé, 2011

    Sometimes referred to as the “Petrus of Bandol”, Château de Pibarnon is located to the north of Bandol on the Télégraphe hill. Pibarnon’s journey to greatness owes much to the passion of Comte de Saint Victor who bought the property when he fell in love with its wine when on holiday in the area and subsequently restored the 13th century bastide and the vineyards which were in some disarray.

    Colour Rosé Wine
    Grape Variety Cinsault, Mourvedre
    Country France

    Out of stock

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